New Delhi: A Hindu woman who gets property
from her husband through a will cannot have absolute right
over it unlike property inherited by her through succession,
the Supreme Court has ruled.
In other words, though the Hindu Marriages Act provide
absolute right to a woman on the property inherited through
succession from her husband, she cannot have the same
privilege if the property devolves on her through a "will"
with restricted clauses.
A bench of justices P Sathasivam and H L Gokhale passed
the ruling while upholding an appeal filed by a land owner
Jagan Singh challenging the right of his widowed sister-in-law
Dhanwanti to sell her plot which was gifted through a will by
her husband Umrao Singh.
Umrao Singh in his will had stated that his wife
Dhanwanti will be the owner his plot, but would not have any
right to dispose off the property. However, after the death of
her husband, Dhanwanti attempted to sell the plot which was
challenged by Jagan Singh.
Both the trial court and the Allahabad High Court
rejected his plea on the ground that Dhanwanti enjoyed the
protection of the Hindu Marriages Act under which she had
absolute right to enjoy, dispose or gift the property to any
However, upholding his appeal, the apex court said,
"Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 undoubtedly
declares in sub-section (1) thereof that a property of a
female Hindu is her absolute property, but it creates an
exception in sub-section (2) which provides that sub-section
(1) will not apply to any property which is given away by
instruments such as by way of a gift or under a will.
"In the present case Umrao Singh had made a will, and
under that he had created a restricted estate in favour of
respondent No.1 which was permissible under this section 14
(2)," Justice Gokhale writing the judgement said.
The apex court cited its ruling in the 1971 Karmi Vs.
Amru case said that a widow who succeeds to the property of
her deceased husband on the strength of his will, cannot claim
any right other than those conferred by the will.
"Thus life estate given to her under a will cannot become
an absolute estate under the provisions of Section 14 (2) of
the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
"Respondent No.1 was entitled to a share in the land on
account of that will only, and not on the basis of her own
"The will giving her a share had restricted it to her
life time which Umrao Singh was entitled to do under Section
169 (1) of the U.P. Act, and the same would remain restricted
in view of Section 14 (2) of Hindu Succession Act, 1956, " the
The apex court further said that the purported sale
effected by Dhanwanti to another woman during the pendency of
the dispute was not valid.
The bench said that Section 52 of the Transfer of
Property Act forbids any such sale transaction of a disputed
property which is the subject matter of litigation unless a
final decree had been passed in favour of either parties to